Yesterday, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation to our local literary club. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And, I was happy to sign and sell some copies of my book.
For my presentation, I started by discussing how a story is basically three elements – characters (someone), plot (doing something) and setting (some where). I chose to speak on the importance of details in historical fiction and how these are necessary to create authenticity for both the physical setting and the time period. I gave examples of the research that I did for Josephine: Red Dirt and Whiskey and discussed the various categories research falls into, such as housing, commerce, community, gender roles, daily living, entertainment. Josephine takes place in rural northeast Texas during the Great Depression.
While I was preparing an outline for the presentation, I thought about how I naturally do this for each novel. I did the same thing for the NaNoWriMo novel – Nelson and Cora – the Beginning. This novel takes place in Kentucky in 1866. In addition to the categories I researched for Josephine, I added diseases and medical treatment for the Civil War.
I want my readers to trust me. The last thing I want to have happen is for my reader to lose interest or be distracted by something that doesn’t fit (wrong model of car, wrong dress, etc.). But, I also don’t want to write a history book.
The goal is to do the research, integrate it seamlessly into the background of the setting and transport readers there and make them FEEL what’s going on.
I want my readers to be in the Model T with Josephine as she drives down the bumpy red dirt roads, just as I was walking with Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind and riding the horse with Sutpen in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! The details DO matter.
If you are a writer, what do you do to make sure your writing is authentic?